Thursday Fun: Sleeping Beauty

Despite early memories of “Sleeping Beauty,” I don’t recall many particulars of the princess herself. She was kind. She was sweet and considerate and beautiful, and throughout my childhood, she always seemed oddly faceless.

The elements I remember most vividly are not integral to the story. When I think of Sleeping Beauty, I think of three illustrations from a book I owned. In an another book, they would look entirely different, or perhaps would not be present at all.

In the first illustration, the childless queen, in tears over her barren state, is approached by a magical golden crab who promises her a daughter (and then proceeds to be absent for the rest of the story).

The second illustration is more dramatic and depicts the concerned king and queen overseeing the burning of every spinning wheel in the region on a huge bonfire, which engulfs the entire page in its flames. The last is by far the most disturbing, and shows the noble prince fighting his way through an immense thicket of brambles, surrounded by the pale corpses of all the would-be rescuers who came before him.

You will notice that at no point do any of these illustrations involve the princess. The book was ostensibly about her, but she was not Doing Things. She was being cursed, being protected, being put to sleep, then kissed awake again. Things happened, but not because she precipitated them.

What I’m thinking about is this: I loved my picturebook-version of Sleeping Beauty, but I believed that it was about a king and queen, victims of a terrible curse. It was about a kingdom-wide ban on spindles. It was about a valiant prince, a wall of thorns, and everything else was just scenery.

13 thoughts on “Thursday Fun: Sleeping Beauty

  1. This makes me suddenly realize — how devastating would a kingdom-wide ban on spindles have been to the local economy? What would people have done for textiles? Only the wealthy would have been able to afford imported cloth. And how would all those women who relied on cottage textile industries have survived if they couldn’t spin thread in the first place?

  2. You pretty much just said exactly what I wanted to say, with a LOT less ranting.

    Is the crab from the Grimm boys? Also, it was a kid’s book with pictures of corpses? *love*

  3. I saw a movie version once (maybe Faerie Tale Theater or something like that) where they played with this. The whole kingdom wore rags, even the princess, except for the evil faerie who tricked her into pricking her finger – the faerie wore beautiful clothes, and THAT was what tempted the princess: the unknown.

  4. Okay, weird as it sounds–I actually worried about that as a child (what with being strange and easily-agitated), and this prompted my mom to explain felting to me. Because she is a nice person. So, that was my warped concept of the peasants. They were all wearing felt.

  5. Very bizarre now that you mention it, Sleeping Beauty invisible in her own story. Can you see pitching this in the current market place? The MC is a princess who sleeps the whole novel. LOL!

  6. You pretty much just said exactly what I wanted to say, with a LOT less ranting.

    Haha, I came to this thinking, Darn it! Tessa already brought up every good point I had, plus some I wasn’t even aware of (Conceiving and bearing children while asleep? Come on!)

    The book was awesome and I can’t remember who did the illustrations. They were very elaborate and stylized, and so the dead knights looked a lot like some of the tomb-art from around the time of the Crusades (as in, pale and peaceful. Even though they were stabbed completely through, they were okay with it). I have no idea where the crab came from–have never run across it since.

  7. Hey, I found it! The crab does come from Grimm, in their story Little Brier Rose.

    This whole wanting to say the same things is perhaps the downside of having such like minds. Heh.

  8. Can you see pitching this in the current market place?

    😀 I actually started out the post thinking I might talk about this a little, and it got really complicated really fast and I was suddenly knee-deep in the difference between a story and allegory and how they each serve society in different ways. And then I thought I am boring even myself.

    I also starting thinking about Snow White, and to a lesser extent, Rapunzel, but it seemed like a topic for another post. Or else, someone’s dissertation. 😉

  9. Yes! That’s the text, word for word, down to the flies on the walls–now I just wish I could remember who did the illustrations . . .

  10. That’s really interesting! As a kid I watched the Disney version over and over again, but it never occurred to me to wonder where all the cloth for their clothes came from if the spinning wheels had all been burned. Possibly because I didn’t really grasp the whole concept of spinning wheels and thought they were just for fun, but if the people really needed clothes there was always the Sears catalogue.

  11. Comfy in the summers! I’m glad the king and queen in that story were willing to sacrifice their entire kingdom’s welfare to try to prevent their daughter from doing something that ended up happening anyway. 😛

  12. You know what I loved the most about this one… the idea that a whole kingdom could get overgrown by thorny vines and greenery (my mental image is of all roses). It still sounds like a heaven to me–just to sleep amidst all that, with every servant equally peaceful, ready to serve when I awake. Now THAT’s a fairy tale. And I’ve always wondered if there wasn’t a historical context for this story, regarding the boycotting of the spindle. A whole kingdom goes to sleep because it’s rulers were anti technological progress? By the time everyone awakes, they are all way, way behind. Not to mention out of fashion.

  13. A whole kingdom goes to sleep because it’s rulers were anti technological progress? By the time everyone awakes, they are all way, way behind. Not to mention out of fashion.

    That would be a great angle for a retelling!

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